Remembering 9/11: Maria Cecilia Benavente’s Sandals

Maria Cecilia Benavente escaped Tower Two barefoot; in shock, she held onto her sandals

Shoes worn by Maria Cecilia Benavente on September 11, 2001 NMAH

Maria Cecilia Benavente worked on the 103rd floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center. She survived, but 176 of her fellow employees at Aon Risk Services, Inc. did not. In 2002, she spoke with Smithsonian magazine about that fateful morning:

She remembers...a cup of coffee, a glance out the window of her office on the 103rd floor of Two World Trade Center, a shocking sight: the other tower burning and her reflexive scream of “Get out! Get out!” A coworker shaking her, “What is the problem?” Pulling a fire alarm. No sound. Pulling another. No sound. Descending through the stairwell. Grabbing a friend’s hand. People following behind her. Someone chastising her for moving too slowly. Too slowly! Stopping, then, on a landing and removing her cumbersome shoes—backless sandals with two-inch heels. From the World Trade Center, she fled—barefoot, still clutching her shoes…

A year later, Benavente mailed those shoes, along with the black knit skirt and yellow sweater she wore that morning, to the Smithsonian. She said she now prefers shoes that can "take her places rapidly."

See other objects and stories from September 11, 2001 at the National Museum of American History's online exhibit "September 11: Bearing Witness to History."